not just anybody, but Napoleon Abueva. Should be known to any Filipino, though my expectations have sunk, especially recently. A great sculptor (link) who made the death masks of both Fernando Poe Jr. and Prof. Alfredo Lagmay (link). His sculpture of the Crucified and Risen Christ is at the center of the UP Church of the Holy Sacrifice (link), just above the marble altar, also from him. Enough of lecturing and to the question I ask now: how many Filipinos still care about their heritage?
I do understand the insecurity of some not taught well, verbally and intellectually, when it comes to novelists and poets. Besides, there have been enough pseudo-intellectuals in the Philippines who have reduced verbal prowess to mere grandstanding without content, to one-upmanship, which is one of the topics of my previous article. A highly abused culture often confuses genuine intellect that cares for the country (like Rizal) with assholes trying to sound smart but without meaning. Take your pick among some figures of today for the second type. But the visual is not as affected, especially not sculpture. Paintings can also have negative, elitist associations for certain people. And the message of a painting may seem to pushy. Botong Francisco might come across too nativist for some, Amorsolo may be criticized for painting a rural idyll – even if both are authentic masters.
But there is a continuity from native weavers to the likes of Pitoy Moreno – also recently deceased – and a true continuity from the carvers of anitos through the carvers of santos to Napoleon Abueva. Nobody in his right mind, even those who wish to cast away all that was from 1521 onwards, can deny the place of a certain type of artist in what the Philippines was, is and hopefully will be. There are indeed those, especially the callous middle-class types of the Marcos era or possibly also today, whose only priority is consumerism and money, who do not have any respect for that “arty-farty”. Sad, but not too surprising in a country that did not care a lot about its national monuments, that hardly rebuilt anything of the Manila destroyed during the war, much less preserve the little left.
Filipinos probably destroyed more of their own culture through neglect and commercialism than the Taliban purposely destroyed in Afghanistan. Of those families that have ancestral homes in the provinces, I doubt that they would sell them or allow them to be destroyed for anything. That there is little sense of a common cultural heritage is sad. Given that, it is not surprising that the Filipinos are in the majority so willing to sacrifice their own countrymen – whether through neglect of the poor which was the norm throughout the decades, or through the effects of the recent drug war. Not to mention polluting the ocean with plastics, or dirtying even the center of one’s capital (link). Here in Bavaria, not even the greediest or most vulgar will sell off or dirty cultural heritage. Pride!
Yet Bavarians also have the reputation of being “polite when they don’t hit you”, meaning they are used to robust speech, including informal camaraderie by politicians. But the language that Duterte uses with his own people is downright insulting. Telling mostly female OFWs that they should not use condoms and putting a candy into his mouth to show it doesn’t taste good (link) – is condescending, practically saying “I can FUCK any and all of you if I want”. Much as I have loathed the false pride and arrogance of many Filipino entitled, I have always loved the natural dignity of so many Filipinos from all walks of life. Abueva brought back memories of this kind of Filipino, so different from the self-depreciating kind one sees too often today. A people that brings forth such artists as Abueva should stop treating themselves like garbage – and following garbage.
Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 16 February 2018